Once the learning phase of my internship was over, my days in the field took on a steady rhythm. Each day started bright and early to beat the summer heat, usually around 8am. Everyone working in the field that day would meet in the parking lot of wherever we happen to be working, brief for the day, grab some equipment, then head out together into the field. The hike to the actual field site varied with each day – some sites took a brief two minute walk, while others required hikes of over a mile. Once arriving at the plots to be studied, the work was easy to settle into. Most of my days were spent planting, tagging, finding, and measuring the different plant species used in the study. After measuring the same species of plants for over three hours, things could get monotonous and by the end of a long day everything looked like a green blur. However, talking with the other interns and my supervisor helped pass the time, and I actually learned a lot of general outdoor knowledge just by chatting with my coworkers. For me, time passes a lot quicker outside than inside, and if anything the scenery was nice to look at. Some of my friends working indoor internships were quite jealous because they were cooped up in an office for 8 hours a day while I was outside the whole time. I’d choose the fresh air of the great outdoors any day.
The study I was working on looked at the effects of deer herbivory on different wildflowers and Red Oak saplings. A normal plot in the study consisted of two sets of plants; one fenced (to keep out deer and other herbivores) and one unfenced. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve spent my summer scratching around in the dirt and crawling through fences. After awhile in the field, we would hike back out to take a break, and sometimes head to another site. A usual day ended around 4 or 5pm and by then I was usually exhausted – I never knew the heat and mosquitoes could be so tiring! When all was said and done, I went home every day feeling accomplished and proud of what I contributed. Without a doubt, that feeling is what drives me to continue doing research, even on the toughest days.